A week from today, the New York Yankees will be trotting out to the field for the first time since their 2016 season came to a disappointing end. If you’ve been following my articles here at The Inscriber, you’d know that I’ve been counting down the days to Opening Day by taking a look at the greatest Yankees to wear each number. So without further ado, let’s take a look at one of baseball’s best, Mickey Mantle.
“The Mick” played for the New York Yankees from 1951 through 1968 and was the centerpiece on one of the best teams the game has ever seen. Mantle was one of the first “true” five-tool players, hitting tape-measure home runs with ease and sprinting down fly balls in center. He is regarded by many as the greatest switch hitter of all time.[Milkins]
In the minors, Mantle was a top prospect that was poised for superstardom upon his arrival to the majors. He was thought so highly of, that he was assigned the number six, in hopes that he would be the next Yankee star, following Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio, whom wore three, four, and five respectively. However, after entering a slump and nearly quitting baseball before being talked out of it by his dad, The Mick was called up once more, this time wearing the number seven.
Mantle’s career was filled with highlights, but it was his 1956 season that really established him as one of the game’s best players. He led the majors in batting average, .353, home runs, 52, and RBI, 130, earning him the Triple Crown and the American League Most Valuable Player award. He promptly followed up his 1956 campaign with a consecutive MVP award after leading the leagues in runs and walks and hitting a career-high .365. In the historic 1961 season, Mantle and Roger Maris both chased the Babe’s single-season home run record. Maris ultimately accomplished the feat, with Mantle finishing with 54.
He led the Yankees to 12 World Series, winning seven of them. Mantle was one of the best postseason hitters of all-time, and in fact still owns the records for homers, RBI, runs, walks, and strikeouts in World Series play.
Mantle’s regular-season achievements aren’t too shabby either. He led the league in homers four times, was named to 20 All-Star teams, won three MVP awards, a Triple Crown, and a Gold Glove. In 1974, The Mick was voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.
There’s no doubt that Mickey Mantle belongs on the crowded Mount Rushmore of Yankee greats. They made sure no one would wear his number seven again by retiring it in 1969. Mantle passed away in 1995, but his legacy as a Yankee and all-time great lives on.